Michigan Democrats, Workers Decry Attempt to Silence Voters

Senate Bill 934 intended to undercut democratic process, suffocate minimum wage debate

LANSING –Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit), Representative Jon Switalski (D-Warren), other state Democrats and Michigan workers gathered today to lambaste Senate Republicans’ introduction of Senate Bill 934 to derail a citizen-initiated ballot drive to raise Michigan’s minimum wage.

“The Legislature should be serving the people of Michigan, not suppressing them,” said Senator Johnson, who has sponsored previous legislation to legitimately raise the minimum wage. “Sadly, this is just the latest in a series of moves by Republican legislators to circumvent and even override the democratic process that is the bedrock of our government. This debate isn’t even about the issue of raising Michigan’s minimum wage. It’s about the constitutional right for Michigan citizens to change the laws of our state.”

SB 934 was introduced by Senate Republican Leader Randy Richardville last week and sent directly to the Senate floor, completely bypassing the normal committee process. While it proposes a minor raise to the minimum wage, its real intent is to eliminate the state’s Minimum Wage Act entirely. This is done for the sole purpose of undermining the ballot proposal slated for November that would raise the state’s minimum wage by amending the Minimum Wage Act.

“There is no logical or policy-based justification for this bill—it is quite simply robbing Michigan citizens of their ability to vote,” said Rep. Switalski, who has been fighting to raise the minimum wage in the House. “If this was really about policy, there are several other bills that have already been introduced that could be used to start this discussion. Instead, Senate Republicans are trying to stifle the will of the people and the legislative process in one fell swoop.”

If Richardville and Senate Republicans were truly interested in raising the minimum wage rather than disenfranchising Michigan voters, there are several bills currently before the Legislature that could be used to raise the state’s minimum wage to a negotiated and agreed upon rate, including SB 203 sponsored by Senator Bert Johnson, HB 4386 sponsored by Representative Switalski and even SB 912 sponsored by Republican Rick Jones.

Over the last four years, Michigan Republicans have made a habit of tampering with elections when they don’t like the results. In 2011, legislative Republicans passed legislation to gerrymander more partisan districts for Republican commissioners in Oakland County after they weren’t pleased with the election outcomes. In December 2012, Michigan Republicans used a Lame Duck session to restore the state’s emergency manager law that strips power away from local governments mere weeks after Michigan citizens voted to repeal the undemocratic law. And late in 2013, Republicans bent to the whim of Right to Life Michigan and passed the appalling rape insurance law because 3% of the population signed a petition calling for it. They could have instead let the issue go to the statewide ballot for all Michigan citizens to vote on it.